Sleep Changes due to Alzheimer’s

Treating Sleep Changes in Alzheimers Patients

One of the unfortunate side effects of Alzheimers disease for many patients is that these individuals often struggle with changes in their sleep patterns and often have difficulty maintaining a normal sleep schedule. Although there is no definitive answer on why individuals with Alzheimers tend to struggle so much with sleep disturbances there have been a number of treatments that have been used with a great deal of success to treat these sleep related changes.

Understanding Sleep Changes

Most medical professionals believe that these sleep related changes are a result from the impact of Alzheimers disease on the brain. However, there are also many older adults without Alzheimers who struggle with sleep disturbances as well. Typically these changes include difficulty sleeping, falling asleep or staying asleep for increased periods of time. There are also many Alzheimers patients who find it difficult to lie still and who tend to wander when they are unable to sleep.

Another common sleep change for individuals with Alzheimers is that they often feel drowsy during the day due to their inability to sleep and tend to nap often during the day time. Another common issue is known as sundowning which occurs in many Alzheimers individuals during the middle stages of the disease. With sundowning, the change in sleep patterns often causes increased agitation and restlessness in the later afternoon and early evening.

Potential Medical Causes of Sleep Changes

While in many situations, sleep pattern changes are a side effect of the disease; there are some medical causes that can be at the root of sleep pattern changes. If you are worried about your loved ones inability to sleep, you may want to take them to a medical professional to see if there are any treatable illnesses at the heart of their sleep issues. These illnesses can include:

- Depression
- Sleep apnea or abnormal breathing
- Restless leg syndrome
- Skin irritations that cause restlessness
- Infections that may be causing disruptive pain or discomfort

In order to get to the root of these sleep issues, you will want to visit a medical professional for advice.

Treatments for Sleep Changes

There are both drug related and non-medicated treatments that can help Alzheimers patients overcome their sleep challenges. However, every case is different so patients will need to meet with their health care provider to get more insight on possible causes for sleep disturbances and potential solutions. For those interested in non-drug related treatments, there are a number of tips to consider that can help improve the sleep patterns of an individual with Alzheimers disease:

- Make certain the individual with Alzheimers is on a set and routine schedule and that they are eating meals and going to bed, and waking up at normal times every day
- Develop a calming routine before bed that is free from stimulants like loud noises, eating or watching television, this can help individuals with Alzheimers fall asleep more easily
- Make sure that these individuals are getting exposure to the sun early in the morning
- Encourage daily exercise early in the day
- Try to limit the use of stimulants like caffeine as well as alcohol and nicotine
- Keep their sleeping environment comfortable and at a comfortable temperature
- Discourage doing activities or spending time in the bed when not sleeping

These are all small and simple changes that can be made to a persons routine that can help them start to get the sleep they need to be their healthiest.


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